Author Archives: Sarah

About Sarah

Librarian. Runner. Wife. Jesus follower. Loves reading, Indiana basketball, trying new recipes, coffee, cuddling with my kitties, cozy scarves, and cardigans.

Further Questions: When is it time to leave your first professional job?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

When is it time to leave your first professional job? Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? Can you share a little about your job history (position/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)? 

[And just a disclosure from the Further Questions writer, Sarah: this question was not asked because I’m wondering for any personal or professional reason! I peruse job/hiring/workplace/library blogs for ideas for this column and this was a recent topic of discussion on one of them… so I wanted to get the library perspective. I wanted to make that clear if anyone from my workplace happens to read Further Questions.]

Laurie Phillips

I think it’s time to leave if/when you need to grow in the job and there is no room for growth in the job or in the organization. I can’t really say what my organization values, although because we are full faculty, people tend to stay a long time and their job changes rather than leaving. People move around within the organization or we change their job description/title as they grow. I am still at the same library where I had my first professional position. I feel very lucky that whenever I was ready to grow in my position, there was room for me to grow – and sometimes I wasn’t even ready! I went from music/media cataloger to Bibliographic Control Coordinator (kind of Head of Cataloging and Acquisitions?) to Technical Services Coordinator to Associate Dean, all within the same organization. One caveat for doing that – I have retained some of my original responsibilities!
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

J. McRee ElrodIf the job is satisfying, pay is adequate, and one likes the location, I see no reason to change positions just for more variety. In the past, I became restive after five years, but see no reason to leave sooner than that. Short tenure looks more suspicious than long term service.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

 

 

Marleah AugustineI feel like I’m in a unique position answering this question — I’ve just taken a new position and will be leaving my current position in a couple of weeks. I think that over time, you can get comfortable in your job. This is beneficial in some ways, but it can also lead to complacency and a lack of new ideas. This is why continuing education and conference attendance is so important, but it also may mean that it’s time to move on to something more challenging. For some, this may be after two or three years; for others, it may be after five or ten.

My current library very much values longevity — when someone is in a position for a number of years, they have extensive institutional knowledge and can remember why some things have changed and why some things have stayed the same. They also are aware of various connections in the community and how to take advantage of them (or why NOT to) based on past experience. That said, my library also values variety of experiences, and that is why continuing education is so encouraged among professional and paraprofessional staff. It keeps us all fresh and interested, and it keeps new ideas flowing in so that we don’t become stagnant.

My personal story is that I started at this library in a part-time position, started my MLS program, and then a few months before completing my MLS, I was hired by the same library to fill a professional librarian position. I’ve worked in this position for the last five years. My main reason to change positions was because my family and I wished to relocate, and there are also limited opportunities here for me to grow — the only place to move up next here is in the director’s position! Going to a different library system will let me work in multiple branches, learn more about librarianship, and continue to grow.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

I will stay in a position as long as it’s interesting and both my boss and I think I’m doing a good job. If any one of those things is not true, it’s time to go.

– Anonymous

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Generational differences can influence workplace dynamics, but are not often discussed in the context of hiring/interviewing. How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring at any level–for professional, paraprofessional, or even student workers? Any tips for candidates to mitigate generational differences throughout the application and interview process? Or is this not an issue at all?

I haven’t seen generational differences have a huge impact on interviews. Do they have an impact in the workplace once a person is hired? Absolutely. But, it’s really hard to get much of a feel for those sorts of issues in a short, scripted interview. Age doesn’t always dictate whether a person is mature or sensible or how well they deal with stress or “interesting” co-workers. For me, it really comes down to personality. I like interviewees who aren’t afraid to ask questions, who are engaged, knowledgeable and know when to stop talking (it’s painful when a candidate is either so nervous or socially awkward that they can’t read body language or get broad verbal hints like “OK, great, thanks” and take that as a hint to STOP TALKING). I have found age isn’t really a factor in interviews.

Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzAh – this is an issue I have been thinking about a lot.  In my previous director position a series of retirements led us to hire several new librarians.  The influx of new, and much younger, talent also meant a different generation of librarian.  And we all needed to adjust more than any of us anticipated.  Family needs were different, professional training was different, and in some ways the newer librarians had different ideas about what it means to be a librarian.  A few of the older librarians were still wedded to traditional patterns of staffing our Reference Desk.  The newer library faculty wanted to look at our usage and propose changes in order to take maximum advantage of the work day and benefit from a more flexible schedule.

I am not sure we would have been aware of some of the differences in an interview situation.  And, to be honest, I am not sure the candidate bears any responsibility for mitigating potential generational differences. But it helps for an established staff and for new hires to be aware that generational differences will mean that people are at different career stages.  The profession has changed, the professional needs of our staff members are different, and the way we think about libraries is different.  And that’s a really good thing.  There can be tension.  But ultimately this is how our libraries, and institutions, evolve.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

angelynn kingI think generational differences are highly overemphasized in the business literature. If anything, it’s more a question of how much work experience you have, or how long you’ve been in the same job. Some new employees not previously socialized to workplace culture may need mentoring in everything from phone etiquette to the meaning of hierarchy, while others with long tenures may need help overcoming resistance to change and risk.

But everyone is different. There are young fuddy-duddies and rambunctious seniors. In my opinion, the most important attribute in a potential coworker is the ability to learn new things, whether it’s learning a new culture, a new skill, or someone else’s new idea. Putting yourself in a box labeled “Baby Boomer” or “Millennial” hinders your personal development as well as the functioning of the organization.

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Do you include role playing, presentations, or skill demonstration in an interview?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Do you include role playing, presentations, or skill demonstration in an interview? What are you looking for? Is content or delivery more important? Do candidates prepare for this ahead of time or are they spontaneous?

Petra MauerhoffFor any management or professional librarian positions we always include a presentation component in the interview process. The candidates are always advised of the presentation topic, duration and other parameters in advance.

We evaluate both, content and delivery and often bring in other staff to act as the audience for the presentations. All our librarian positions have public speaking/presentation components as part of the daily responsibilities and we need someone who can be comfortable presenting to a group of strangers, even in high pressure situations. We love seeing humour used during the presentations or always appreciate it if the candidate is able to somehow establish a connection with the audience, rather than just delivering content in a stiff manner.

We do not enforce the use of visual aids or slideshows as part of the presentations, all that is left up completely to the candidate.
The presentation makes up a large part of the evaluation, but we have hired candidates whose presentation was less than stellar, if we saw potential overall.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

Paula HammetWe usually require a 20-30 minute presentation for tenure-track librarian positions. All library faculty and staff are invited, and occasionally, a faculty member from outside the library will attend. Candidates will usually have at least a week to prepare before the interview.

The topic prompt will vary depending on the position. For a position with a lot of instruction of first-year students, we may ask the candidates to prepare a 20 minute session on evaluating information geared towards freshmen. For a web services position, we might ask them to think about where web services will be in five years (to which technologies and trends should we be paying attention).

Content and delivery are both important. We want to see how people organize their presentations, how comfortable they are with the technology they choose, how they think on their feet as they troubleshoot problems or take questions from the audience. Are they engaging with their audience and encouraging active participation? Are they speaking about their topic at a level that’s appropriate to the audience and the time allotted? Do they utilize effective graphics and style to convey their points?

Through the content of the presentation we want the candidate to demonstrate current thinking on the topic, the ability to hone their information into an effective presentation, and a willingness to push beyond the familiar.

Ideally, we would like to see a presentation that is interesting, innovative and inspiring. At the very least we want to see competent and confident speaker who has something to say.

For most positions we also ask candidates to meet with the Library Faculty (8-10 people) and lead a 30 minute discussion on a topic of their choice. Some have send us a provocative article to read ahead of time and then we discuss the concepts. Others use the time to ask more about the culture of the Library and how it operates. Others may have questions they haven’t yet asked about they position, the Library, the campus or the area. This discussion allows us to get to know the candidates a bit better and gives them a better idea of who we are.

– Paula Hammett, Sonoma State University Library

We do not include role playing, presentations or skill demonstrations in our interview process. We do ask situational questions (What would you do if…?), but we don’t require candidates to prep anything beforehand. Very generally speaking, I give people a lot of leeway during an interview for being nervous. It’s not how they say it, but what they say that’s really important.

 

From personal experience: I applied for a job once in an academic library that did require a presentation. The interview committee gave me a general topic and asked me to prepare a Power Point presentation to give to the university’s library staff. It was very intimidating. That whole experience-it was an all-day interview with at least five committees plus the presentation-was a bit like running a gauntlet. But I will say this, once I survived that, all other job interviews seemed pretty tame in comparison! It never hurts to polish your presentation and public speaking skills, they can come in handy during an interview. Except for the part where you imagine everyone in their underwear in order to relax. Don’t do that!

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

angelynn kingWe usually ask librarian candidates to do a short teaching demonstration with the search committee acting as audience. We are most interested in platform skills; content can be learned on the job. If you can engage your audience, communicate ideas and procedures clearly, start and finish on time, and come across as knowledgeable and approachable, you can probably teach anything.

– Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Laurie Phillips

We ask our candidates to do presentations. We don’t do role playing or demonstrate skills. By asking a candidate to do a presentation, we’re looking for their understanding of the content and perhaps some innovative ideas that could serve them well in the position. We’re also looking for someone who can speak in front of others because the ability to make a presentation, whether it be as a part of teaching, committee work, or professional activity, is extremely important to our work. So I would say we’re looking for content, but we’re also looking for communication style and comfort level/skill with public speaking. We give candidates a presentation topic so we hope they’re preparing ahead of time!

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Does it matter when in the process an applicant applies?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Does it matter when in the process an applicant applies? That is, do you accept applications on a rolling basis, select a quota, and work from there? Or are applications set aside until a deadline and reviewed all at once? Do you use the same approach for all positions, or are professional versus paraprofessional treated differently in this regard?

Laurie Phillips

For our library faculty positions, we have a closing date and that is firm. It doesn’t matter when someone applies during the open period, but we firmly close on the closing date. We have to file a search plan with Academic Affairs, so all of the dates for review of applications, phone/Skype interviews, and campus interviews are set from the beginning. For paraprofessional positions, we accept applications on a rolling basis, review applications as we go, and interview once we have a group of candidates we’re interested in.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Celia RabinowitzVery often an academic institution has a policy for faculty (MLS librarians) positions which uses a rolling acceptance until the position is filled.  That might also be accompanied by a date for beginning review of applications which I find useful. Most search committees will wait until that deadline to begin reviewing applications. Before each decision point (for narrowing the initial pool, before phone interviews, and before campus interviews) newly arrived applications should be reviewed.  One of my best hires came from an application that arrived after we had already been through two rounds of unsuccessful campus visits.  I was very glad that we were still accepting applications on a rolling basis.  Sometimes a really great application arrives so late in the process that it is difficult to find a way to fit that person in, but the rolling acceptance approach can work well.

This same approach is used for non-MLS positions, but if the search is only advertised locally the bulk of applications usually arrives very quickly and tapers off.  Also – the time frame for searches for non-MLS positions is much shorter so search committees work more quickly and applications which arrive after the search is well under way are considered but may end up in a back-up pool if candidates have already been selected for interviews.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Jessica OlinSo long as someone applies before the deadline, it works for us. I tend not to look at the applicant pool until after the deadline, anyway, although I know other people who look at them as they come in. It’s more a factor of how busy I am than anything about the positions themselves. Having said that, I’m usually more forgiving when I first start reviewing applications than when I finish, and I do try to review them in chronological order from earliest submissions to latest, so it doesn’t hurt to get your application materials in early.

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

J. McRee ElrodWhen an applicant applies doe not matter to us.  A cataloguer may depart at any time.

If applying for a professional entry level position, just after library school graduation might not be the best time.

 

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

 

 

 

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Is it possible for applicants to be too qualified to succeed in a position?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Do you think it is possible for applicants to be too qualified to succeed in a position? At what point do you determine over qualification–application/CV/cover letter, phone interview, in person interview? Do you ever include a maximum amount of experience that you will accept in your (internal) rubrics? What are the possible pros and cons of hiring an individual who is too qualified?

 

I’ve been on both sides of that equation.

 

Once, I was working as a library director in a small town, which sounds fancy, but it was a 20 hour a week position. Obviously, I couldn’t live on just that, so I applied for a job at a library the next town over. It was for a basic clerk position. The director called me in for an interview and point blank asked me why I was applying for a clerk position when I was already a director. I explained to her my reasons and we talked about expectations and she was very clear about what my role was going to be, which I was perfectly fine with. I got the job and we worked together quite happily for two years.

 

Now, as a hiring manager, the above referenced story is always on my mind when I see a resume for a person who is completely over-qualified for a position. I don’t have any internal rubrics or  some sort of rule of thumb, I take each person as they come. Oftentimes, a person will reveal themselves in an interview-maybe they’re way-overqualified for a basic public services librarian position, but after talking with them, we learn this person’s spouse was posted here (we have a military base) and they just want to work. I’m fine with that. The interview is usually where you can figure out a person and their motivations. My only concern about hiring an individual who is over-qualified is that they will get frustrated in the position. My old boss at that small library was smart to lay out what the job was and what I was expected to do. If I was interested in hiring a very overqualified person, I would do them that courtesy so they could refuse or take the job with full disclosure.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundGenerally I don’t have a ceiling height on qualifications, but I do consider whether a person who is over qualified for a position will get board in the position.  Our bookkeeping operation is a one person job.  Last year we had someone apply for the position who had managed a large bookkeeping department.  We didn’t hire him because we wondered how long it had been since he had done the simple type of bookkeeping we needed.  Would he leave us as soon as a managerial position opened somewhere else?
For the same position we interviewed someone who had a masters degree and was working on a CPA certification.  She had to work under a CPA and we didn’t need a CPA.  How long would she have stayed.
Librarians applying for a page position?  A circulation assistant position?  Why would they settle for it?
When we hire, I don’t expect someone to stay a lifetime with us, but I don’t want to replace that person 3 months later because a better opportunity came along.
– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Celia RabinowitzThese days it is not uncommon to see applicants who appear over-qualified.  This is particularly true for staff positions which don’t require the MLS but which attract MLS holders who are trying to get into a library job.  It is often easy to spot overqualified applicants from a resume or CV especially if we are advertising for an entry-level position.  I feel strongly that we should consider newly degreed librarians for those positions and not necessarily privilege experienced librarians primarily because entry level is where we get our new talent.

I know that one of the major reasons given for not hiring overqualified people is that they will be looking for better work and may not stay in a position but I am not sure that is necessarily a reason not to hire someone.  If the person applying for the job understands the work and its parameters (and that they may not be able to utilize all of the skills they bring) I consider them seriously.  I don’t want someone to be bored or feel unchallenged.  On the other hand someone with more experience than we advertised for may have lots to contribute that helps them later on.  Sometimes positions open up internally, but often they do not.

Both the applicant and the search committee need to think about what the person will bring to the position and whether there is a good match of skills and interest.  Every hire is a gamble in one way or another.  Being overqualified should not necessarily, by itself, be a reason not to consider an applicant seriously.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Laurie Phillips

Yes, I think it is possible. If a person is much more experienced than require or overqualified, they are less likely to be satisfied with the job. They’ll either want more money than the job description/title warrants or want to move up in the organization or position before that is possible. However, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that someone who is overqualified wouldn’t be right for a job. I would want to talk with the candidate and determine if they are aware of the level of position and how they feel about it and what that mean going forward. No, I have never included a maximum amount of experience. I recently hired a person for a position with more experience than the position required. However, her experience was not related to the position and, as it turns out, wasn’t particularly relevant to the position and she has still had a learning curve in the new job. So you never know!
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

angelynn kingOne of the advantages of working in higher education is that there is no such thing as “overqualified.” Everything you know or can do will probably come in handy sooner or later.

If you come across as believing you’re too good for the position, though, that’s something else. Remember, you’re being hired for a job, not for your general awesomeness. We appreciate the latter, but it’s not a free pass out of desk duty. AND EVERYBODY SHELVES.
-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made while job searching?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made while job searching? And what (if anything) led you to those things, and how did you figure out you should do things differently?

Samantha Thompson-FranklinI would say the biggest mistake I once made was not to address all of the points listed under required qualifications in the job ad in my cover letter and resume. I believe that it caused me not to get an interview for the position. So I always stress to job candidates to make sure that they address all of the points listed in the ad, especially those that are required, and in turn, I always make sure that when I am on a search committee, I check applications received to make sure that they have taken the time to acknowledge the qualifications we are looking for in the position. The person doesn’t have to have all of the qualifications, but must at least make reference to them in their cover letter and/or resume.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

There are two things that stick out in my memory:
1. Not verifying the kind of position it was. I once applied for what seemed like a general public service librarian position, but when I got to the interview, I discovered it was for a children’s librarian position. I’m definitely not a children’s librarian, so it was a waste of my and the interview committee’s time. Although the job description didn’t include that info, I should have asked when they contacted me for the interview.
2. This was after I was offered a position: I should have asked if the salary was negotiable. Most of the time it isn’t, but it’s always smart to ask. I was raised to believe you never do that, but my attitude has evolved on that one, especially when I was told once when I accepted a job that I could have asked for more. Just be polite when you ask.
– Margaret M. Neill, Main Library Manager, El Paso Public Library

Marleah AugustineNot being prepared, and not tailoring my skillset to the particular job description. And it was truly trial by fire — after an interview that did not go well for those reasons, I learned quickly that I would have had better answers had I gone through the “required skills” section and identified specific examples of how I would meet those expectations. Often times we vaguely understand how we would answer interview questions, but it’s important to have specific instances ready to go.

I think interviewees also need to really assess whether the job they are applying for is the job they want. It’s easy to see a salary amount or location that is appealing, but you have to look at whether you think you’d be happy in that particular organization, in that particular position. Don’t get caught up in what’s just in front of you.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

angelynn kingI think the biggest mistake I’ve made on the job market is privileging the place over the work. When you’re searching nationally, there is a lot of fantasy about what your life might be like in a different location, and that’s natural. But you’ll be miserable anywhere if you don’t really like what you’re doing (and the people you’re doing it with) on a day-to-day basis. I’ve been lucky enough to end up in jobs that were good fits, but I’ve had some really uncomfortable interviews that probably could have been avoided if both sides had not indulged in quite so much wishful thinking.

– Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: How do you determine what questions to ask in an interview?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

How do you determine what questions to ask in an interview? Is there a standardized set of questions for each candidate, or are questions personalized? Does your organization have policies on this to create fairness and equity in the hiring process, or is this not a consideration?

Paula HammetWe ask the same questions of every person interviewing. From our position description we determine our criteria for hiring. Once we have our criteria, we create questions that will address the criteria. Then we map our criteria to questions and vice versa. All questions must map to a criterion, and all criteria must have associated questions.


All of our questions must be approved by HR before we are allowed to view any applications. We are allowed to ask followup questions on-the-fly, such as “Can you give us a specific example of what you just described?”
Employment laws are fairly specific about the types of question you can ask and what you cannot.

– Paula Hammett, Sonoma State University Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundI have some standard questions I ask all candidates and then some more customized questions that relate specifically to the job being discussed.  Here are the questions I used for a recent posting of Manager of Adult Services. Questions 1, 2,7, 8, 10, 11,12, 13, 15, 16 are asked of most candidates.  I am particularly interested in 11 and 12.  We value all questions so a question is a question.  I’m surprise how many candidate will not answer contest questions, not that we get that many.  I don’t want employees that decide if a question or person is worthy of receiving library service.  On question 12 I want to know if they are committed to serving the customer or protecting a co-worker.  I don’t want anyone to leave our library when we know they have been given mis-information.  Question 15 gets some interesting answers.  Few people can name 10 resources.  Ten is a magic number because I’d like them to think through the Dewey Decimal System (one encyclopedia, one philosophy, one religion, etc.).  There are no right answers, but it is interesting to hear not be able to list even two resources.  How about the Internet?

Anyway, here are the questions I have used recently.

  1. What do you know about our library?
  2. Tell me a little about your work experience.
  3. Describe the skills and personality characteristics you possess which apply to the needs of this position.
  4. If you could have made one constructive suggestion to management, what would it have been?
  5. How would you describe your management style?
  6. Have you ever had to build motivation or team spirit with coworkers?  Tell me about the situation.
  7. How would you deal with a staff member who is not complying with library policy?
  8. How would you ensure that the library’s customer service standards are practiced by all employees?
  9. What experience have you had with assessing service quality?

Follow-up:  From your experience, what assessment tools or methods were the most successful and why?

  1. How would you deal with an irate resident that comes to you complaining about poor service he/she just received?  (You could use other options in place of poor service)
  2. Tell me about an occasion when your performance didn’t live up to your expectations.
  3. If the library administration or board made a decision that was unpopular with the public, how would you handle their complaints?  What if you also disagreed with the decision?
  4. What does the public library of the future look like?
  5. Do you think reference librarians should answer contest (trivia) questions?
  6. What would you do if you heard a colleague give out incorrect information?
  7. Tell me about a time you made a bad decision, describing how you minimized the damage and what you would do differently next time.
  8. Do you have any ideas about handling the large number of multiple copies that result from buying to meet high patron demand?
  9. If you had to provide reference service from only ten resources, which ten would you choose?
  10. What two accomplishments would you like to be remembered for at the end of your career and why are they important to you?

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

The questions vary depending on the job. For most paraprofessional positions we have a set of basic questions we use. When the library interviews for a specialized position-such as a children’s literacy coordinator or a collection development manager, then the hiring committee will submit questions to be considered based on the position and the organization’s needs. The questions are vetted by HR and the best ones make it to the interview. Once we submit the questions, we have to ask each candidate the same ones. We also have to keep track of their responses, score them and keep all the paperwork for 6 months. HR requires this in case someone requests the score sheet or wants to know why they weren’t hired. I think our process is pretty fair; by the time candidate resumes are sent to the hiring committee, everyone is pretty much on a level playing field. Everyone has the same minimum level of experience, so we can skip that part of the interview and go straight to the position specifics.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzSearch committees I have served on have always been able to create their own phone and on campus interview questions. The primary restrictions are that we ask the same questions of all candidates and, of course, that we do not ask questions about anything off-limits from an EEOC standpoint.  We can then add questions about specific aspects of a candidate’s experience, and if a candidate mentions something we can follow-up.

Every search committee on our campus has a session with someone from Human Resources who reminds us of the process and gives advice on creating questions that are open-ended and fair.  Candidates also spend time with many other people and groups, so the feedback from those people is very important since they have a bit more latitude in conversation than the search committee does.

While this might sound choreographed (and can sometimes feel a bit like that), it usually works pretty well.  There is enough space around the standard question list to get more detail or pursue additional inquiry if needed.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Which would draw fewer red flags, an application packet with no listed address or an address that does not match the listed work experience?

This week we asked people who hire librarians this question from a reader:

I’m applying for multiple jobs out of state and have seen on this site (and in my experience) that extra consideration is given to local applicants. I’m available to move to the locations where I’m applying at the drop of a hat, so I’m listing the addresses where I would stay (with family, my S.O., etc) until I could formally move. The problem is, I’m not currently working there, so my most recent experience isn’t there either. I mentioned this problem to a coworker, and she suggested not including an address at all, since she does that (with decent success) and insists that the hiring managers don’t need to know where you live until the negotiation phase starts. I see her point, but this seems equally problematic to me.

In short, this is my question: which would draw fewer red flags, an application packet with no listed address or an address that does not match the listed work experience?

 

Jessica OlinMy advice, based on seeing someone do this successfully, is to list the local address and explain it in the cover letter. Something like, “I am already planning to move to that area, so I was thrilled to see this opening,” should do the trick.
– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

Celia RabinowitzThere are certainly some advantages to candidates who already live locally.  They won’t need relocation support if it is available, they already know the area which can help if there are geographic or demographic challenges (I have experienced both), and it is a lot less expensive to bring them to campus.  So a local candidate who is competitive might allow a search committee to expand an on-campus interview pool to 4 rather than the usual 3 if adding them does not add appreciably to the cost.

But – that all only applies if the candidate qualified and is competitive.  I have run searches that eliminated many applicants who lived fairly close to the institution because they were not strong candidates.  Advertising regionally or nationally should mean that all candidates are given equal consideration.

My advice is not to leave your current address off of your materials.  I think that would raise a red flag to a committee much more quickly than including your current address.  I also think it is not necessary to indicate that you are willing to move or that you have a place to stay.  If you are applying then you are ready to move.  I have seen people include such information in a cover letter when they write about why they are interested in the job – perhaps family live close by and the applicant is interested in moving closer to family which would be nice.  Perhaps it is in a part of the country the applicant wants to live in. I would just be careful not to make it seem as if those reasons are the primary ones you are interested in the job.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Definitely include an address; no address would be a concern for us. We expect that if someone is applying for a job where they do not have current experience, we would think that either that person lived in the area now or would move if offered the job.

– Kaye Grabbe, Lake Forest Library

Marleah AugustineI would imagine that an application with no listed address would draw more red flags — I don’t think it would necessarily be a dealbreaker, if the experience and qualifications were a good fit for the position, but it would definitely warrant some investigation. An address that doesn’t match the listed work experience can be easily explained if the question comes up. This is something that should be included in a cover letter as well, explaining that you’re temporarily staying in the area during the application process. However, that could lead to a sticky situation if they then want you to come on short notice for an interview if you would need to arrange time off from a current position or travel.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

angelynn kingAn application without an address would seem odd. What if the prospective employer needed to send you something in the mail?
 

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

 

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: How can a resume/CV show subjective skills or qualities?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Let’s talk about resumes and CVs. Many skills and qualities listed in articles targeted for job seekers include traits that are fairly subjective: leadership, written communication, presentations, problem solving, work ethic, motivation, etc. How can a resume or CV be used to demonstrate those skills, or is it more appropriate to leave it to examples in cover letters and/or recommendation letters? Additionally, how do employers recognize those skills?

Marleah AugustineIncluding specific projects or instances in which you’ve actively demonstrated those qualities is the key. Personally, I have no preference as to whether they show up in the cover letter or on the resume. I think the best plan is to pick one or two instances and really go into detail about those in the cover letter; the other instances can be listed as bullet points in your employment history on your resume. Maybe you saw a need for a change and took the lead in creating a new metric in your department — that could be a way to show leadership and problem solving. Listing a committee on which you’ve served could display motivation and leadership. Taking the time to go in-depth and illustrate HOW you display these skills also would help me see your level of commitment and motivation.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

Julie TodaroWhat is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization?

Most library environments do NOT provide many (or any!) opportunities for promotion and within those environments who do, promotion can be very different. In fact, most libraries do NOT include what can be identified as a career ladder, or promotion track. And many more libraries do not include (at all) opportunities for “advancement” or different, typically higher level jobs employees can work toward. One of the frustrations of libraries in general is that many employees cannot move up – in terms of salary or title – unless they take on management responsibilities of supervising people and/or budget activities and while this makes sense, not everyone WANTS to manage other people or organizational dollars.

In those libraries that have a more typical “promotion” process – it/they can be explained as the following:

…you successfully complete work roles and responsibilities (above and beyond) and it is indicated on performance documents, when you have reached a status (years of service, project or work completion, exhibition of specific and possibly unique strengths or competencies, etc.) you earn and are awarded a different, higher level title and more money…but not necessarily additional roles and responsibilities… (Example – Librarian I’s might be at the lowest level and you progress to a II or a III.)

…you successfully complete work roles and responsibilities (above and beyond) and when you have reached a status (years of service, project or work completion, exhibition of specific and possibly unique strengths or competencies, etc.) and all is indicated on performance documents, you apply for (within a prescribed number of years) different, higher level title and more money or to retain your job (!)…but – again – not necessarily additional roles and responsibilities… the application process includes employees creating a portfolio that is vetting by either or both internal (in the library) groups or external (outside the library) groups and – ultimately – a decision is made on levels achieved successfully which can include retention in – or release from the organization. (Example – Assistant Librarians or Professors, would progress to Associate and then a Full Professor)

…you successfully complete work roles and responsibilities prescribed not only by position descriptions and your goals and indicated on performance documents, etc, but within your profession’s or institution’s process– for example – a career ladder. As you move up or make progress upwards on the ladder’s “steps” (which can consist of a combination of years of service, completion of roles and responsibilities, etc.) you reach or achieve different levels of status. These could be illustrated by one or more of the following – titles indicating growth, progression or status, salary increases, benefits, perks (such as flexible schedules or “first pick” at work schedules, etc.) This may include different, higher level title and more money…and often management responsibilities for people, money, collections, etc. but often times – not many additional roles and responsibilities…(Example: Librarian, Level I or Assistant Manager to Librarian, Level II or Manager)

…you are successful in your position and it is indicated on performance documents, and you choose to apply and compete for other jobs/positions in the organization – typically at higher levels – and if you get the position – you get a new title (and the title may or not indicate upward mobility) but if the position is at a higher level based on job responsibilities, it should mean an increase in pay with typically different, sometimes completely new roles and responsibilities. (Example: Reference Librarian to Assistant Head of Technical Services; or a Children’s Librarian to Adult Services Librarian – no increase in pay; Children’s Librarian to Assistant Head of Adult Services – increase in pay due to moving to management NOT because of a move to a different functional area.)

In general, most think a promotion SHOULD mean you have gone above and beyond or you have taken on higher level roles but it may NOT mean that in organizations where career ladders or ranked processes have paths for increases in pay but NOT new roles and responsibilities.

So I think the original question was what do I have in my organization? I have a combination of the above with titles that indicate progression, and successful movement among titles achieved by successful performance of work roles and responsibilities AND successful ranking (internally by supervisors) on not only annual performance documents but on (every three years) portfolios.

Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility?

Good question. I think when staff members “do their job well” (and forgive the awkward phrases) and do it quickly AND ask for more, it is an indication they need to be challenged more not only within their own position, but with a higher level position with more, different roles and responsibilities. It is one of the joys of being a manager – when you see someone master an area quickly and want more…sometimes this is achievable within their position but often it means they have to go higher. One of the challenges of managers is when they have this situation but no jobs open or no career ladder! So they create structures within which they can both challenge and reward without the more formal processes.

Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates?

I have seen both, that is, some organizations will allow for movement within an organization without formal, external postings such as private institutions or organizations where internal structures (unions, career ladders, standards and guidelines, etc.) make this possible. In my organization, I have both…that is, I can choose to post internally only and have internal competition OR I can post only externally and have internal employees (both part time and full time) compete with external candidates.

To avoid problems in explaining why people were chosen; however, it is always recommended (for legal AND ethical reasons, much less morale) – no matter the institution, position or people – to have individuals fill out the paperwork in order to clearly articulate their directions, then have managers fill out their paperwork to articulate why the candidate was successful.

One great advancement in my organization came a few years ago when they began to allow hourly employees (or non-staffing table/no benefits employees) apply for internal postings. This was a huge step forward for hourly staff – many of whom had worked for many years but were forced to compete with external employees.

Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

Ask yourself early on in your career, what IS your career path. Although it’s trite, where DO you want to be in five years? Can you “get there” with the job or organization you are in? Does the job you are applying for have promotion? Is there anywhere “to go” internally?

Ask your manager what is expected of you…you both have the job description but what are THEIR goals and expectations for the position?

Find a mentor (or two!), ask that person how they moved ahead in their work (either or both internally or externally) in person or digitally.

Obviously, do your job well, that is, perform your work roles and responsibilities with care to perform at the above and beyond levels.

Seek new experiences within the organization. Ask for new challenges.

Identify the pathways for movement. So IF you seek upwardly mobile positions, and challenges are not available internally, lean in to your association at the local, state and national levels. Seek advice from your mentor (or others) on how to move and what to do within that association to get the competency range and depth needed for either your current job or your next job.

And finally – although the only way up in your organization may be to take a management position and you don’t want to manage others, think VERY carefully before you take on something you don’t want to do. We should all love our jobs and we should seek the work that makes us happiest even though it may not be the top in our organization. In fact, we are in the perfect profession because we can branch out in so many ways in associations AND achieve increasing higher level work AND achieve recognition we may want AND do good things outside our organization.

All too often libraries do NOT provide the promotion opportunities we need and we find we have to leave our current organization to “move up” no matter the position. Ask yourself these questions early.

  • Is it important for me to move up in my profession?
  • Is it important for me to move up in my organization?
  • What do I “need” as an individual to fulfil my need to “move up?” And is my organization going to be able to provide that for me? If not, is my association? Any other outside work?
  • What can I do to move up in my PROFESSION then, rather than move up only in my organization?– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College, ALA President-Elect 2015-2016
Marleah AugustineI can’t necessarily say there’s a “best way” — hopefully, if you are interested in eventually getting promoted at your organization, you’ve been doing outstanding work and shown initiative throughout your time in your current position. If an opening comes up, then don’t be afraid to sell yourself and pursue the opportunity. Internal candidates at our organization do follow the same application procedures as external candidates — the only difference is that external applicants may not be chosen to interview, but an internal candidate (regardless of experience or qualifications) is generally guaranteed an interview.

As for advice for succeeding, set goals for yourself even if it’s not required by your organization. Look for as many ways as possible that you can learn about other departments and other positions. Show an interest in librarianship as a career, even if you’re currently working as a clerk.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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